Member Disciplined For Violating Constitution Cannot Hide Behind Alleged Due Process Violations.

In Doro v. Sheet Metal Workers’ Intern. Ass’n, 2007 WL 2331941 (2nd Cir. 2007), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a union member’s claim against the international about his discipline for working in violation of his local’s rules. In this case, the member worked for a union employer under terms and conditions less than those required by the collective bargaining agreement. The local charged the member with violating its constitution and convened a trial board to review the charges. The member, who incidentally was an owner of a union employer, did not contest the accuracy of the charges and admitted misconduct. The local then fined the member about  $11,000.00. The local membership and international body upheld the fine on appeal. The member sued the local and the international under the Labor-Management & Reporting Disclosures Act (LMRDA), which regulates internal union governance for many private sector unions. He claimed in essence that the charges were vague. Prior to trial, the local settled with the member; the International did not.

The Second Circuit held that the International did not illegally “ratify” the due process violations because its decision was based upon the admissions of misconduct by the member. The Second Circuit went further and suggested that a local that allegedly violates due process provisions of the LMRDA is not thereby precluded from disciplining a member where the member’s misconduct cannot be plausibly disputed. “It remains an open question whether a local union can violate a member’s due process rights under the LMRDA when the member does not contemporaneously challenge the deficiencies of the charging document and admits, during the intraunion appeal process, the factual basis for the charges and his understanding of the nature of the charges.”

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